With the increasing emphasis by consumers and regulators on food safety, and the prospect ofcostly recalls, fines and brand damage, processors are constantly on the lookout for quicker andcheaper ways of preventing bacterial contamination of their products.
Netherlands-based EBI Food Safety said today its Listex P100 bacteriophage product receivedapproval last week from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use on cheese. The approvalwas granted under the FDA's GRAS (Generally Recognised As Safe) procedure.
Listex P100 is the second bacteriophage product to be approved for use on food products in the US. InAugust, the FDA approved a bacteriophage product by Baltimore-based Intralytix for use in killingListeria on ready-to-eat meat and poultry products.
"This acknowledgement by the FDA is based on a thorough safety review, and is recognised by food companies and national governments worldwide. GRAS affirmation is an essential step in thecommercialisation of Listex," EBI stated in a press release yesterday.
According to an analysis by Frost & Sullivan, phage technology is poised to become an foodindustry standard for ensuring products do not leave processing plants laden with dangerouspathogens.
To food pathogens like Listeria, bacteriophages are the viral hit squads of the microscopicworld. Bacteriophages are viruses that target bacteria, rather than human, plant or animalcells. For every bacteria, there is a phage that likes to latch on to them, take over their lifeprocesses and multiply. The baby phages then burst out to attack other nearby targets, killing thehost cell.
Listex P100 is active at a temperature up to 45°C (113°F) and a pH range of 4.0 to 9.5. Itexhibits a high tolerance for saturated sodium chloride solutions, and is not affected by the atmosphere, according to EBI. The start-up company recentlyestablished its production center in the Netherlands to support the industrial-scale production ofbacteriophages.
The company expects to launch several other phage products, including those that targetsalmonella and campylobacter.
The new European regulation concerning microbiological criteria for foods, which came into effectin January this year, states that for ready-to-eat foods the number of L. monocytogenes cells at themoment of consumption must be less than 100 per gram product.
"Applying an adequate dose of P100 phages allows ready-to-eat meat producing companies tomeet this new standard," EBI has stated in a previous press release.
As a scientific spinoff from research by the US-based National Institutes of Health, EBI has been developing phage production methods since 2001, when it was formed in the Netherlands. Thecompany is developing its pathogen killers in a joint effort with Nizo, a Dutch food consultancy.
Listeria has been implicated in several large food poisoning outbreaks in the US and Europe.Listeria poisoning results in the highest rate of hospitalisation of any foodborne pathogen. About20 per cent of its victims die, the second highest death rate for food poisioning victims.
Listeria has a high resistance to salt, nitrite, dry conditions and acidity. The micro organism'sability to multiply under refrigerated conditions causes major concerns for food processors.
Worldwide food and non-food industries spend about €5.6bn on toxic chemicals that are onlypartially successful in blocking pathogens, according to estimates.
Recent analysis from Frost & Sullivan forecast that US demand for antimicrobials - chemicalsused to wash equipment and foods to ensure they are free of food borne pathogens - would reach$215.8m in 2012, from $161.7m in 2005.